Tillage management: Plant counts are important for decision making

Tillage farmers are extremely busy at the minute, but it is important to walk and monitor crops. Plant counts allow farmers to assess establishment and can help to estimate crop productivity.

This in turn can add to decision making on fertiliser, rolling and growth regulator applications.

Taking plant counts is also a requirement for anyone participating in the tillage Knowledge Transfer (KT) Programme.

It is easiest to take plant counts before the crop starts to tiller; when the crop becomes thick, it is hard to see individual plants.

Plant counts can be carried out using a 1m stick, quadrat or by simply making a ring out of pipe.

How to take a plant count using a 1m stick?

Throw the 1m stick randomly across the field. It is important to take a number of different plant counts across the field. This ensures a representative sample.

Count the plants along the 1m stick. The second thing that you need to do is count the number of rows planted across 1m.

Multiply these numbers by each other and this will give the number of plants/m². Record each number and get an average for the field.

When calculating seed rate at the beginning of the season, spring barley sown in late-April should have a target plant population of 325 plants/m². Taking these counts will allow farmers to examine establishment and seeding rate.